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If you’re like most of us, you don’t look over your calendar and identify the time blocked out for “meetings” as the most productive hours of your day. Meetings often mean exchanging information the participants already have, confirming details they already know, wandering off topic, rehashing old business, starting new threads of ideas and conversation that will never be acted upon, and catching up socially. Meetings can provide healthy social interaction, but they don’t always bring about meaningful progress on important projects. So, what can you do to change this? Here are a few moves that can help you (and everyone else) get more out of your time.

Establish a meeting leader.

Who will run or direct the meeting? Will it be you? Will it be the person who called it in the first place? Will it be the client, the project manager, the consultant, or the liaison? If the person isn’t you, you can do your best to bring attention back to the meeting leader when things go astray. If it’s you, preparation will help you stay focused.

Goals are essential.

What do you aim to accomplish in the hour available to you? Don’t just provide a vague answer; instead, write down your goals well beforehand and cross off any items that can’t or shouldn’t be addressed in this session. Pour all your preparation efforts into the items that remain.

Anticipate distractions.

If you expect that Sally won’t love the idea you plan to propose, or that Steve will point out a certain obstacle to your plan, get ready for that. Have a counterpoint prepared, or simply prepare to table these objections/insertions/distractions for another time. If you have a meeting invitee who is a known disruptor, contrarian, spontaneous contributor, or poor listener, have a plan in mind to neutralize this person or speak to them outside the meeting afterwards about their issues and concerns.

Bring everything you need.

Instead of constantly offering to “follow up on that later” or to “send everyone the document by email afterwards”, anticipate these requests and requirements and send or prepare them beforehand. If your team members will need visual aids, schedules, or just an outline of the meeting itself, spend a few minutes getting these items ready. Visual cues and written documents can help everyone stay focused.

Move toward your end-of-meeting action items.

From the first minute of the meeting, mark out a clear path to the last minute, in which you clearly distribute and clarify action items for all relevant members of the group. Everyone should leave the session knowing exactly what will be expected of them later.

For more on how to keep your meetings short, efficient, and meaningful, contact the management and staffing team at Extension.

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